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Engaging Upward Bound Students in Research

Upward Bound Public Health (UBPH), Faces of Diversity class, July 2013


To explore diversity and cross-cultural communication, Instructor Patty Robinson decided to take her Upward Bound* students outside the classroom.  The goal of her class is for students to learn to work effectively in groups by accepting, valuing, and applying each other’s differences. She invited OEECE to engage her students in a dynamic group project. What began as an exploratory discussion about personal safety developed into a simple, but full-fledged research experience.  After a group discussion to articulate their own views about personal safety, Ms. Robinson’s Upward Bound students chose the questions they wanted to ask in order to compare views of college students with that of high school students.

Questions like “How do you define personal safety?” and “What types of harm are most concerning to you?” provided interesting starting points to gather data.

The students’ findings included how young people work to secure their own safety. To stay safe, high-school students were more likely to carry a knife or gun and to keep to themselves than college students. They were also more likely to refrain from alcohol and drugs than college students for the purpose of keeping safe. As one would expect, college students expressed a greater degree of personal responsibility for their safety. Interestingly however, some high school students expressed a desire and a need to protect not only themselves, but others around them also. This desire was not expressed by any college students in this pilot study. 

Ironically, several of the Upward Bound students had to work against their own safety strategy of avoiding strangers in order to gather the needed data. “I don’t really like stepping outside of my comfort zone and the project made me take that step,” BriAsia Johnson, Upward Bound CLASSIC, Warren G. Harding junior. However, it only took a few interviews before the students began to relax and enjoy the interviews. “It was difficult to pull them away from doing interviews!” Patty Robinson. “It was easier to do because my peers encouraged me and we each took on a different responsibility. Recognizing the differences in each other was the key to success,” BriAsia Johnson.

After conducting the interviews, the students helped compile and analyze their qualitative and quantitative data. Finally, they presented their findings for their fellow Upward Bound students. “It’s rewarding to see young people rethinking their views of the world and being empowered to try new things. Not many teens get to do full research projects in high school, so we were very happy to introduce these students to the field,”  -Anne Marie Lucas, Graduate Student Worker, Office of Experiential Education & Civic Engagement.
*Upward Bound is a federally funded TRiO program which provides pre-college support services to high school students who aim to earn Bachelor’s degrees.  Students face barriers to college including low income and having the potential to be the first generation to attend college in their families.  Part of the Upward Bound program provides an opportunity for students to live on the Kent State campus during the summertime. While on campus, students take rigorous academics, special courses, and explore various obstacles and opportunities